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Showing posts from February, 2015

Ten Years of Endowment Data

While the endowment of a private university is not a big investment pot from which universities draw income to spend at their discretion (some portion of every endowment is restricted to certain use), it's a very good proxy for institutional wealth.  What's always been interesting is the enormous size of the top five or six institutions, always led by Harvard, in comparison to everyone else.  And yet Princeton, which enrolls fewer students, has the largest per-FTE endowment.

This visualization shows two things.  On the top chart, it's a tree map, or what I like to call a sheet cake map.  Think of all the money in all the endowments as one big bowl of batter baked into a cake, and then, once baked, sliced up into pieces.  The size of the piece is that institution's endowment as a part of the whole.

The bottom chart shows ten years of endowments, measured at the start of the fiscal year shown, so you can see the hits in 2008--2009 and the overall growth over time.  Of in…

Four years of Ivy League Tax Returns

I love the Internet.  Thirty years ago, I couldn't have imagined being able to look up several years of tax returns for the Ivy League Colleges and Universities (let alone being interested in them.)  But Guidestar (a great site you should check out, in case you don't know it) comes to the rescue.  The documents are pdf, unfortunately, but you learn a lot by inputting the data manually into a spreadsheet.

For your information: By law, all universities that receive Title IV funding must make tax returns available to the public, so there is nothing clandestine about this.

The tax returns can show you, albeit at a very high level, at how the Ivy League Institutions generate revenue, and how they spend it. To no one's surprise, salaries and benefits dominate at almost all colleges and universities, and if you're really curious, the returns list in detail how much the officers and highest paid non-officers make.

But as I once suggested, the most interesting thing is the mass…

The Race Goes On

Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that colleges are, in general, interested in increasing the number of students who apply for admission.  There are a couple reasons for this, but they're all mostly based on the way things used to be: That is, before colleges started trying to intentionally increase applications.  The good old days, some might say.

In general, increasing applications used to mean a) you could select better students, who would be easier to teach, and who might reflect well on your college, or b) you as an admissions director could sleep a little better, because you were more certain you could fill the class, or c) your admission rate would go down, which is generally considered a sign of prestige.  After all, the best colleges have low admission rates, right?

Well, yes, one does have to admit that the colleges that spring to mind when one says "excellent" all tend to have low admission rates.  Lots of people want to go there, and thus, it mu…

Degrees Awarded by State

Frankly, the data are a little boring when you first try to visualize them.  When you're looking at the number of degrees awarded by discipline and by state, California, Texas, and New York win pretty much everything.  That's no surprise, of course, as they're the largest states with the most college students.

So I broke it into regions, thinking there must be some differences in the degrees awarded in different parts of the country.  Nope.  The Middle Atlantic wins.  That's where the people are.

Finally, I looked at each state by the percentage of degrees in certain fields, and voila! Something interesting. Different states award different types of degrees in dramatically different proportions. Some of this can be answered easily: A high percentage of business and computer science degrees in Arizona is driven by the University of Phoenix, but others are not so obvious. Why is there such disparity when you look at humanities, engineering, or health professions?

To inte…

When Infographics Fail

There are a lot of bad infographics floating around the Internet.  When they concern things like the difference between cats and dogs, or how many hot dogs and hamburgers Americans eat over the 4th of July, it's no big deal.

But this blog is about higher education data, and when I see bad infographics on that topic, I feel compelled to respond.  This one is so bad it's almost in the "I can't even," category.  It takes very interesting and compelling data--The graduation rates of Black male athletes--and compares it to overall graduation rates at several big football schools in the nation.  Here it is:


For starters, this chart appears to stack bars when they shouldn't be stacked: A graduation rate of 40% for one group and 40% for another group shouldn't add up to 80%.  The effect is that it distorts much of what your brain tries to figure out.  For instance, look at the overall rates (longer bars) for Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh;  Georgia Tech at 79% is sh…

A Remake of the Pell Institute Data

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have time. --Pascal

And sometimes it's that way with data visualization, too.  What starts out as a simple project--one you think will take a few minutes--gets slightly more complicated.  This morning, I came across this interesting Chronicle of Higher Education story, showing Pell Institute Data on Economic Diversity. If you don't want to look at the article, here is a screen grab of the chart.  Click on it to enlarge.


It's not a bad chart, but I found myself taking more time than I thought I should to figure out the story, which is that for-profit institutions enroll far higher percentages of low-income students than public institutions.  (Another problem with this that I can't fix is that the data are not complete; for instance, there is no data on private Baccalaureate or Master's Institutions included in the set.) Additionally, notice the subtle changes in color when you move from the overall category to any…